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Alcoa Inc. will cut 8,000 jobs and spin off operations that don't provide "superior returns," the world's largest aluminum producer said, citing a longer than expected weakness in the global manufacturing sector. For the quarter that ended Dec. 31, Alcoa lost $223 million, or 27 cents a share, more than analysts had predicted. Revenue slipped to $5.06 billion from $5.10 billion the previous year. Most of the work reductions will take place in Europe and South America, the Pittsburgh-based company said.

Britain's fifth-largest supermarket chain will pay $4.7 billion for fourth-place rival Safeway, The Financial Times reported. The surprise all-stock offer from William Morrison Supermarkets Plc would create a combined company with nearly 600 stores and a market share equal to that of third-place Asda, a subsidiary of US giant Wal-Mart. The deal may prompt bigger chains such as Wal-Mart or Tesco to consider counter-bids, the Financial Times reported.

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In a deal worth $1.5 billion, Merck & Co. is to buy the 49 percent of Japan's Banyu Pharmaceutical Co. that it doesn't already own, Bloomberg.com reported. Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., is the second-largest US drugmaker. The offer follows similar moves by industry rivals GlaxoSmithKline Plc of Britain and Switzerland's Roche Holding AG to expand partnerships in Japan, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical market.

A plan by the New York Stock Exchange to raise annual fees sparked complaints from Delta Air Lines, AMF Corp., and Federated Department Stores, Bloomberg.com reported. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the NYSE, which hasn't raised prices since 1994, will charge a flat rate of $930 for every million shares listed. It's been charging $1,650 for the first and second million shares, and $830 for each million shares thereafter.


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